[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----USA, MO., N.C., DEL., S.DAK.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Feb 6 03:31:05 UTC 2007
U.S. Set to Begin a Vast Expansion of DNA Sampling
The Justice Department is completing rules to allow the collection of DNA
from most people arrested or detained by federal authorities, a vast
expansion of DNA gathering that will include hundreds of thousands of
illegal immigrants, by far the largest group affected.
The new forensic DNA sampling was authorized by Congress in a
little-noticed amendment to a January 2006 renewal of the Violence Against
Women Act, which provides protections and assistance for victims of sexual
crimes. The amendment permits DNA collecting from anyone under criminal
arrest by federal authorities, and also from illegal immigrants detained
by federal agents.
Over the last year, the Justice Department has been conducting an internal
review and consulting with other agencies to prepare regulations to carry
out the law.
The goal, justice officials said, is to make the practice of DNA sampling
as routine as fingerprinting for anyone detained by federal agents,
including illegal immigrants. Until now, federal authorities have taken
DNA samples only from convicted felons.
The law has strong support from crime victims' organizations and some
women's groups, who say it will help law enforcement identify sexual
predators and also detect dangerous criminals among illegal immigrants.
"Obviously, the bigger the DNA database, the better," said Lynn Parrish,
the spokeswoman for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, based in
Washington. "If this had been implemented years ago, it could have
prevented many crimes. Rapists are generalists. They don't just rape, they
Peter Neufeld, a lawyer who is a co-director of the Innocence Project,
which has exonerated dozens of prison inmates using DNA evidence, said the
government was overreaching by seeking to apply DNA sampling as
universally as fingerprinting.
"Whereas fingerprints merely identify the person who left them," Mr.
Neufeld said, "DNA profiles have the potential to reveal our physical
diseases and mental disorders. It becomes intrusive when the government
begins to mine our most intimate matters."
Immigration lawyers said they did not learn of the measure when it passed
last year and were dismayed by its sweeping scope.
"This has taken us by storm," said Deborah Notkin, a lawyer who was
president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association last year. "It's
so broad, it's scary. It is a terrible thing to do because people are
sometimes detained erroneously in the immigration system."
Immigration lawyers noted that most immigration violations, including
those committed when people enter the country illegally, are civil, not
criminal, offenses. They warned that the new law would make it difficult
for immigrants to remove their DNA profiles from the federal database,
even if they were never found to have committed any serious violation or
Under the new law, DNA samples would be taken from any illegal immigrants
who are detained and would normally be fingerprinted, justice officials
said. Last year federal customs, Border Patrol and immigration agents
detained more than 1.2 million immigrants, the majority of them at the
border with Mexico. About 238,000 of those immigrants were detained in
immigration enforcement investigations. A great majority of all
immigration detainees were fingerprinted, immigration officials said.
About 102,000 people were arrested on federal charges not related to
immigration in 2005.
While the proposed rules have not been finished, justice officials said
they were certain to bring a huge new workload for the F.B.I. laboratory
that logs, analyzes and stores federal DNA samples. Federal Bureau of
Investigation officials said they anticipated an increase ranging from
250,000 to as many as 1 million samples a year.
The laboratory currently receives about 96,000 samples a year, said Robert
Fram, chief of the agencys Scientific Analysis Section.
DNA would not be taken from legal immigrants who are stopped briefly by
the authorities, justice officials said, or from legal residents who are
detained on noncriminal immigration violations.
"What this does is move the DNA collection to the arrest stage," said Erik
Ablin, a Justice Department spokesman. "The general approach," he said,
"is to bring the collection of DNA samples into alignment with current
federal fingerprint collection practices." He said the department was
"moving forward aggressively" to issue proposed regulations.
The 2006 amendment was sponsored by two border state Republicans, Senator
Jon Kyl of Arizona and Senator John Cornyn of Texas. In an interview, Mr.
Kyl said the measure was broadly drawn to encompass illegal immigrants as
well as Americans arrested for federal crimes. He said that 13 percent of
illegal immigrants detained in Arizona last year had criminal records.
"Some of these are very bad people," Mr. Kyl said. "The number of sexual
assaults committed by illegal immigrants is astonishing. Right now there
is a fingerprint system in use, but it is not as thorough as it could be."
Ms. Parrish, of the rape victims' organization, pointed to the case of
Angel Resendiz, a Mexican immigrant who was known as the Railroad Killer.
Starting in 1997, Mr. Resendiz committed at least 15 murders and numerous
rapes in the United States. Over the years of his rampage, Mr. Resendiz
was deported 17 times. He was executed in Texas in June.
"That was 17 missed opportunities to collect his DNA," Ms. Parrish said.
"If he had been identified as the perpetrator of the first rapes, it would
have prevented later ones."
Immigration lawyers said the DNA sampling could tar illegal immigrants
with a criminal stigma, even though most of them have never committed any
"To equate somebody with a possible immigration violation in the same
category as a suspected sex offender is an outrage," said David Leopold,
an immigration lawyer who practices in Cleveland.
Forensic DNA is culled either from a tiny blood sample taken from a
fingertip (the F.B.I.'s preferred method) or from a swab of the inside of
the mouth. Federal samples are logged into the F.B.I.s laboratory,
analyzed and transformed into profiles that can be read by computer. The
profiles are loaded into a database called the National DNA Index System.
The F.B.I. also loads DNA profiles from local and state police into the
federal database and runs searches. Only seven states now collect DNA from
suspects when they are arrested; of those, only 2 states are authorized by
their laws to send those samples to the federal database.
Mr. Neufeld, of the Innocence Project, said his group supported broad DNA
collection from convicted criminals. But, he said, "There is no
demonstrable nexus between being detained for an immigration matter and
the likelihood you are going to commit some serious violent crime."
The DNA amendment has divided women's groups that are usually unified
supporters of the Violence Against Women Act, which was adopted in 1994.
"We were stunned by the extraordinary, broad sweep of this amendment,"
said Lisalyn Jacobs, vice president for government relations at Legal
Momentum, a law group founded by the National Organization for Women. Ms.
Jacobs recalled that the amendment had been adopted by a voice vote with
little debate. She said many lawmakers eager to renew the act, which
enjoys solid bipartisan support, appeared unaware of the scope of the DNA
"The pervasive problems of profiling in the United States will only be
exacerbated by such a system," Ms. Jacobs said, because Latino and other
immigrants will be greatly over-represented in the database. She noted
that the law required a court order to remove a profile from the system.
Many groups warned that the measure would compound already severe backlogs
in the F.B.I.'s DNA processing. Mr. Fram of the F.B.I. said there had been
an enormous increase in the samples coming to the databank since it
started to operate in 1998, but no new resources for the bureau's
laboratory. Currently about 150,000 DNA samples from convicted criminals
are waiting to be processed and loaded into the national database, Mr.
He said the laboratory had added robot technology to speed the processing.
But in the "worst case scenario," where the laboratory receives one
million new samples a year, Mr. Fram said, "there is going to be a
(source: New York Times)
Bowman may face death penalty in Missouri
A teen was killed 8 days after Missouri's governor reinstated the death
penalty in 1977, meaning Gregory Bowman is eligible for death row if
convicted of Velda Joy Rumfelt's murder.
St. Louis County police announced that detail during a news conference
Also, Bowman waived his right to an extradition hearing when he appeared
Monday morning before Wabash County Circuit Judge Stephen G. Sawyer. He
was expected to be picked up fairly quickly by St. Louis County Police,
said Wabash County State's Attorney Christopher M. Quick.
Bowman was arrested Friday night at his father's home in Bellmont, Ill.,
near the Indiana border. He spent a week out on bond for the first time in
Bowman confessed to two murders in Belleville and spent decades behind
bars until a judge ruled he deserved a new trial because he may have been
tricked into confessing. Bowman is charged with the murders in spring 1978
of Elizabeth West, 14, and Ruth Ann Jany, 21.
St. Louis County authorities last week got a DNA match between Bowman and
evidence recovered after the rape and murder of Rumfelt. The 16-year-old's
body was found in a field June 6, 1977, near Six Flags in Missouri.
Police said they are working on other cold cases in Illinois, Missouri and
Indiana to see if they may be linked to Bowman.
(source: Belleville News-Democrat)
Lawmakers spar over death penalty and suggestion of a moratorium
On the eve of a meeting where state leaders are to consider a new
execution procedure, lawmakers bickered Monday about when they should join
the debate over the role a doctor plays when the state puts an inmate to
The meeting of the House Study Committee on Capital Punishment, formed
last year to consider issues such as racial equity in jury selection and
ethical behavior by lawyers in capital cases, ended with a tense exchange
over questions of whether its work is a veiled effort to abolish capital
Co-chair Beverly Earle, D-Mecklenburg, quelled the argument by asking
members to remember their assigned mission is only to find and fix errors
in the state's death penalty system.
"I would want to think that none of us would want to see an innocent
person put to death. I would want to think that, but it's beginning to be
kind of hard," she said. "I would think that we'd want to put all the
safeguards that we can in place to make sure that that doesn't happen."
The committee's meeting came a day before the Council of State - the
governor, lieutenant governor and the elected heads of eight state
government agencies - is due to take up a new "execution protocol" that
requires a doctor's participation. That apparently conflicts with the
state medical board's recent declaration that physicians violate medical
ethics by taking an active role in a lethal injection.
The council is considering the new protocol after a judge put three
planned executions on hold, cited a law written in 1909 that says the
governor and the Council of State must approve any change in the execution
"With all due respect - the secretary of agriculture, commerce, the
treasurer - I don't know that they are properly trained to make those
decisions, life or death decisions," Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford,
said after the meeting.
Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue's office released a written statement late Monday
saying Perdue supported suspending executions until constitutional
questions related to how the death penalty is administered are "clarified
by the courts."
The statement said Purdue, a likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate in
2008, remained a proponent of capital punishment but didn't say how Perdue
would vote Tuesday.
Panel co-chairman and House Speaker Joe Hackney, D-Orange, said the
ongoing debate prompted him to ask committee staff to draw up legislation
that would suspend the death penalty while the Legislature studies lethal
A similar moratorium and study is under way in Florida, where then-Gov.
Jeb Bush put executions on hold in December and created a commission to
examine whether improvements can be made to the way lethal injections are
Hackney's suggestion sparked the tense debate, and although the panel
ultimately decided against discussing the matter until the courts and
Council of State have time to act, some committee members insisted the
debate belongs before the Legislature.
"I have never seen legislators run as fast away from taking on their
legislative responsibilities as I have today," said Rep. Paul Luebke,
D-Durham. "I don't understand ... why the General Assembly would not want
to clarify the statute if we have the medical board saying a doctor can't
participate even if the needle is put in improperly."
The debate grew more heated as former Rep. Rick Eddins, R-Wake, recounted
witnessing the execution of his uncle's killer and cautioned other panel
members against losing sight of the victims of capital crimes.
"I'm not going to be here to represent the victim," said Eddins, who lost
his re-election bid in last year's GOP primary. "But each one of you has
victims in your district, I guarantee that."
The panel did agree to recommend some legislation, including a bill that
would allow a claim of racial discrimination to be introduced at any point
in the appeals process.
It also recommended legislation to provide for further study on
restructuring the state law defining capital murder and felony murder;
methods to ensure fairness in jury selection, including minority
representation; racial discrimination in capital sentences; and mental
competency issues in capital cases.
(source: Associated Press)
Leaders to debate executions
State leaders will consider a new execution procedure this week that
requires a doctor's participation, but the proposal appears to conflict
with the state medical board's recent declaration that physicians who
actively take part in an execution violate medical ethics.
The proposed change in the state's "execution protocol" highlights a
dilemma that has effectively put executions in North Carolina on hold.
Last year, a federal judge agreed to let an execution proceed only after
the state assured him a physician and a registered nurse would be present
to ensure the inmate did not suffer pain as he was put to death via
But last month, the North Carolina Medical Board called a doctor's
participation in capital punishment "a departure from the ethics of the
"In my view, their protocol ignores what the medical board did," said E.
Hardy Lewis, a Raleigh lawyer who represents death row inmate Jerry
Conner. "They have just decided to ignore it."
State law only requires a doctor be present at executions, and that is
allowed by the North Carolina Medical Board. But the board cautioned last
month that a "physician who engages in any verbal or physical activity ...
that facilitates the execution may be subject to disciplinary action."
While trying to sort that conflict, the state said in a federal lawsuit
challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection that a nurse and
medical technician instead of a doctor would monitor a condemned
inmates' vital signs. The state said a doctor would only observe the
execution and later sign a death certificate.
That change was apparently designed to satisfy both the medical board and
the demands of the federal court. But Wake County Superior Court Judge
Donald Stephens, citing a law written in 1909, said the governor and the
Council of State must approve such a change.
Stephens put three executions on hold until the council did so. Marcus
Reymond Robinson was scheduled to die Jan. 26, James Edward Thomas was
slated to be put to death last Friday, and James Adolph Campbell was to
die this Friday.
No other executions for the 164 other inmates on death row have been
The Council of State comprised of the governor, lieutenant governor and
the elected heads of 8 state government agencies will consider the new
execution protocol at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday.
But instead of approving the process involving a nurse and a medical
technician, the revised protocol on their agenda requires a physician to
monitor "the essential body functions of the condemned inmate" and notify
the warden if the inmate shows signs of "undue pain and suffering."
"It still says that the doctor shall monitor the essential bodily
functions and according to the medical board ruling...a doctor cant
participate in executions," said David Neal, a defense lawyer with several
clients on death row. "So I don't see how it will pass muster."
Gov. Mike Easley's office had previously referred all questions about the
execution process to the state Attorney Generals Office, and in a
statement released late Friday, the governor clearly appeared ready to be
rid of the issue.
"This protocol will be presented Tuesday to the Council of State, and they
will determine if it is consistent with current law as enacted by the
General Assembly," Easley said. "Then, this issue will go back to the
courts for them to determine how it will go forward. At that point, the
issue will become solely a matter for the courts."
Some groups praised the judges decision to halt executions in North
Carolina, saying it reflects growing doubts about the use of the death
penalty in the United States.
"As a state and as a nation, we don't know how to deal with killing
people," said Jeremy Collins, campaign coordinator for the North Carolina
Coalition for a Moratorium. "We've become so uncomfortable that we have to
sit around and ask ourselves how were going to do it."
(source: Associated Press)
Defense bids to avert death penalty in Bonistall slaying
When James Cooke Jr. was charged in the rape and slaying of University of
Delaware student Lindsey Bonistall in 2005, his lawyer told Cooke's family
that the fight had begun to spare him the death penalty.
That battle moved forward Friday at the opening of the trial, with the
lawyer's first public pronouncement that jurors would be asked to spare
Cooke's life on the grounds that he is mentally ill. Defense lawyer
Brendan O'Neill conceded that the prosecution's evidence is "substantial."
But he said the evidence dealt with just a small "window of time" within
the troubled life of his client, a life that got progressively worse from
his premature birth through years of neglect and physical and emotional
The prosecution must still prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was
Cooke who raped and killed Bonistall, a 20-year-old sophomore from White
Plains, in her off-campus Newark, Del., apartment on May 1, 2005. In his
opening statement on Friday, O'Neill seemed less concerned about the
question of guilt than with convincing jurors that his client was mentally
Cooke, just 5 feet 6 inches tall with cornrows and an empty expression,
sat quietly throughout the opening day of his trial. He did not react to
any of the horrific details Deputy Attorney General Steven Wood gave of
the killing or to his own lawyer's recitation of Cooke's troubled
childhood. At one point, he looked back at his supporters, slowly raising
an open palm to one man who gave him a thumbs-up sign.
Delaware is one of several states since the mid-1980s that added a new
verdict option - guilty but mentally ill - after John Hinckley Jr. was
acquitted because of mental illness in the attempted killing of President
Reagan. Defendants found guilty but mentally ill face the same punishment
as other convicts but are treated for their illness before they are sent
to prison. In Delaware, jurors can still recommend the death penalty in
such cases when they have convicted a defendant of 1st-degree murder.
The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked capital punishment for the mentally
retarded but has never done the same for mental illness, said Eric
Freedman, a professor at Hofstra Law School, adding that it was a
"next-wave issue" for the court to take up in the death-penalty debate.
Freedman said it was not unusual for defense lawyers to steer clear of
details of the crime and instead lay the groundwork for a jury to spare
the life of a mentally ill defendant.
"In general, the decision seems to be that the more different angles you
present evidence of mental illness, the better it is for the defendant,"
It is believed that a death sentence has not been imposed on a Delaware
defendant found guilty but mentally ill since 1986, when 19-year-old
Reginald Sanders was ordered executed for the killing of a Dover
businessman for whom he had worked.
That sentence was later reduced to life imprisonment by the state's
highest court because jurors should have been told that their finding of
mental illness after the guilt phase of the trial was an automatic
mitigating factor in their consideration of capital punishment during the
That instruction would give O'Neill an early lead on the prosecution in a
penalty phase if Cooke is convicted of 1st-degree murder.
The trial at the New Castle County Courthouse resumes this morning with
testimony from the lead investigator, Newark Detective Andrew Rubin, a
native of Scarsdale and a University of Delaware graduate. He testified
Friday about the discovery of Bonistall's body under charred debris in her
bathtub when he and the fire marshal were investigating what had been
reported as an arson.
(source: The Journal News)
Prosecutor won't seek death penalty in Rapid City case
Pennington County prosecutors have decided not to seek the death penalty
if a man is convicted of 1st-degree murder.
Joseph Roubideaux, 33, is accused of stabbing to death Boyd White Bull,
51, in his apartment last March.
State's Attorney Glenn Brenner said the state has met the statutory
elements. But after meeting with the victim's family and weighing whether
a jury would be likely to approve capital punishment, prosecutors chose
not to pursue it, he said.
"We don't think that we have enough aggravating factors -- beyond
reasonable doubt -- to convince a jury to vote for the death penalty in
this case," Brenner said.
If convicted, Roubideaux still faces up to life in prison.
Roubideaux, who is in jail without bond, was a fugitive from a
work-release program. He was arrested in Washington state on unrelated
charges and returned to South Dakota.
White Bull was stabbed several times.
Another court hearing on the case is scheduled for Monday.
(source: Associated Press)
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